First Presbyterian Day SchoolBy MEREDITH JOHNSON,
Special to the Sun
The 2017-2018 school year started out very busy for First Presbyterian Day School as they began their 52nd year with two major additions.
The first was the opening of the FPDS K3 and K4 five-day program, led by preschool director Cathy Miller. This announcement was made last November, and the classes were full not long after opening registration. This addition created the need for extensive renovations at FPDS, including a preschool center with eight classrooms with all new furnishings and equipment that houses 100 students and 16 teachers and assistants, along with brand new playground equipment outside specifically for this age group. “We are excited that this portion of our long-term strategic planning has come to fruition,” said Gary Herring, head of school. “The entire student body and faculty have enjoyed welcoming these young people to our kingdom school.”
Second was the launch of an academic immersion model for students participating in the school’s dyslexia program. “The mission of this model is to provide a Christ-centered environment where students with dyslexia are immersed in an educational setting specifically designed to meet their unique learning styles while enhancing their God-given gifts and preparing them to transition to the next phase of their educational journey,” Herring said.
The model began with one class for second grade and one class for third grade with a maximum of 10 students per class. Students participating are assigned to a second or third grade homeroom teacher, therefore being a part of that classroom’s daily schedule. However, students receive the academic portion of their day in a small group setting incorporating a multisensory approach led by a dyslexia therapist who is also a certified teacher. In addition, dyslexia therapy is provided daily.
The school year has also been busy for FPDS in terms of missions. The school’s chapel theme for the year is “A Heart Like His,” with students studying various characters in the Bible and how each had a heart for Jesus - and how this can apply to their lives no matter what age. Students and families have had opportunities already to carry this out. FPDS recognized September as Childhood Cancer Awareness month by “going gold for Mississippi kids.” The Crusader Club and FPDS families raised more than $6,600 to donate to The Campbell Bulldog Fund, begun by FPDS parents Jill and David Dale to assist with childhood cancer research at Batson Children’s Hospital. In addition, FPDS raised almost $8,500 for Hurricane Harvey flood victims in Houston. Donations were used to purchase supplies that fifth-graders packed into more than 100 flood buckets to ship to Houston through the Presbyterian Church of America’s Mission to North America Disaster Relief ministry. Many hygiene bags and individual flood buckets were also donated.
Each year FPDS adopts a ministry for families and students to support. This year FPDS has chosen Mission First and the six areas of inner city ministries that include: Medical and Dental Clinic, Legal Aid, Peyton’s House, Community Development, and Sports Ministry. Students bring chapel offering on their designated chapel days that will be given to Mission First and will hear from many Mission First staff members as to how their offerings will be used.
FPDS is a mission school that partners with families from across the metro-Jackson area to grow children spiritually, academically, emotionally and socially. FPDS is a melting pot that brings together students from 25 communities and approximately 10 church denominations.
The school has grown to more than 675 students in grades K3 through sixth with a mission that began in 1965 and continues today. “Our mission statement states: believing that children are a heritage from the Lord, we strive to plant seeds of Christlikeness in the hearts of children; pursue excellence in academics; and prepare students for future service in God’s kingdom in their homes, churches, and professions,” Herring said. “Our purpose is to affect the heart of every child who enters our doors.”